The Yiddish Art Theatre in America
(Yidisher kunst-teater en amerike)
by Zalmen Zylbercweig


 

Zalmen Zylbercweig, the editor of the six-volume "Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre)", had been working on a proposed book about the Yiddish theatre, more specifically a Yiddish-language history of Maurice Schwartz's famed New York "Yiddish Art Theatre" troupe, at the time of his passing in 1972. Additionally, he also was working on a seventh volume of his "Lexicon", but both were being edited at the time of his death and never were published. The galleys for the seventh volume of his "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre", which was to include a special section about Maurice Schwartz and his Yiddish Art Theatre (entitled "The Yiddish Art Theatre in America"), which was to be published the year of his passing, remains dormant within various repositories around the world, until now "never seeing the light of day". However, you can now read most of the galley pages (not all are available) here at the Museum online.

The section entitled "The Yiddish Art Theatre in America" (referred heretofore as "YATA"), according to the galley pages that are available, is a history of the Yiddish Art Theatre as it was during its first six years of existence, i.e. from 1918 to 1924.

Within YATA there exists some seven hundred and forty-two pages. It is unknown whether more such pages exist, but at the virtual Museum of Family History, we are making these book galleys available to you in the hope that it will serve to help you -- not only in your research of the Yiddish theatre, but also perhaps to give you a look into the history of the once-popular Yiddish theatre. This is part of the mission of the Museum of Family History, i.e. to keep alive the memory and enhance the appreciation of Jewish culture, not only as it once existed, but as it exists today.

The proposed seventh volume and YATA are being made available to you as single PDF files, so you may search among their many pages for information you are interested in. In "YATA", you may read about nearly one hundred of the YAT productions and many reviews that were written by critics and others in newspapers, journals and books. Both PDF files are in Yiddish, so be forewarned. A project to translate into English the seven volumes of the "Lexicon" is underway at the Museum. These translations will go online as the project proceeds and will be announced at some time in the near future.

In Volume 7 of the "Lexicon", you may read more than one hundred and twenty biographies, mostly of individuals once involved in the Yiddish theatre. The last published volume of the "Lexicon" was issued in 1969, so one might assume that either this unpublished seventh volume was already in the works when Volume 6 was published, or was begun not long afterwards.

Notes on "YATA"

As these pages come from galleys that haven't had a final proofreading, and not from any published book, you will find imperfections within some of the pages, e.g. missing or inverted page numbers, the occasional inverted piece of text or the missing photograph. Additionally, past PDF page 265, the page numbering changes, e.g. the first page after page 265 is labeled "2-F". There are also a number of missing pages, but this is unavoidable.

The Museum strongly suggests that you visit the Museum's webpage of YAT productions ("Casts and Characters") which includes a listing of most of the plays performed by the troupe. This may serve as a finding aid or guide for you in your quest to learn more about the YAT. These listings include the name of each play (given in both English and transliterated Yiddish), the date of the first performance, the author of the play, the names and functions of those who worked behind-the-scenes, and the theatre location. Also included are listing of cast members and their roles for more than seventy percent of the more than one hundred YAT productions. You will also enjoy seeing photographs of the actors in their roles, as well as scenes from plays, during your visit to the "Casts and Characters" page. Listings of more of the YAT productions will be added over time. It should be mentioned that although the aforementioned Zylbercweig unpublished book discusses only the first five seasons of the YAT, this list is all-encompassing.

As mentioned above, the Museum is in the process of translating the more than 2,800 individual biographies as found within Zylbercweig's "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre". There are six volumes that have been published to date (in New York City, Warsaw and Mexico City) between the years of 1931 and 1969. There are also galleys of parts of an unpublished seventh volume,  which will be presented to you shortly. A database, currently non-searchable by the public, has been created for these seven volumes. This database of more than 2,800 individual names (and more than fifty theatrical organizations) include the following information:

Surname, given name, other name(s), town and country of birth, and date of birth and death. Also for each entry, there exists two page numbers: one is the page number on which the biography begins within the original hardcover Yiddish version of the book; the other is the beginning page number of the biography as it exists on the PDF file, which makes it infinitely more easy to locate a particular page. It is hoped that at some time in the future, a free, searchable online database can be created so you needn't contact the Museum whenever you have an inquiry.

You can view what Lexicon biographies have been translated into English by clicking here.

Most importantly, the Museum is seeking volunteers to assist in the translations from Yiddish to English, of both YATA and the seven volumes of Zylbercweig's "Lexicon". If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Museum at yiddishtheatre@museumoffamilyhistory.com.

To view the (incomplete) unpublished Volume 7 of Zylbercweig's Lexicon, please click here.

To view the special section from Volume 7 about Maurice Schwartz et al entitled "Yiddish Art Theatre in America", please click here.

*** It is important to note that the speed of any potential download of this 180 MB PDF file will vary, depending on your computer. Fully downloading this file may take ten minutes or longer. Also the PDF search function on this file does not search Hebrew/Yiddish fonts, and it will only be useful, in this instance, to search for a particular page number as found within the original Yiddish book. If you have any questions about any of the content of these two volumes, please contact the museum with your specific request.


 


 

 

 

 


 

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